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Brevet Rank
by [?]

The crew of the Elisabeth Hopkins sat on deck in the gloaming, gazing idly at the dusky shapes of the barges as they dropped silently down on the tide, or violently discussing the identity of various steamers as they came swiftly past Even with these amusements the time hung heavily, and they thought longingly of certain cosy bars by the riverside to which they were wont to betake themselves in their spare time.

To-night, in deference to the wishes of the skipper, wishes which approximated closely to those of Royalty in their effects, they remained on board. A new acquaintance of his, a brother captain, who dabbled in mesmerism, was coming to give them a taste of his quality, and the skipper, sitting on the side of the schooner in the faint light which streamed from the galley, was condescendingly explaining to them the marvels of hypnotism.

“I never ‘eard the likes of it,” said one, with a deep breath, as the skipper concluded a marvellous example.

“There’s a lot you ain’t ‘eard of, Bill,” said another, whose temper was suffering from lack of beer. “But ‘ave you seen all this, sir?”

“Everything,” said the skipper, impressively. “He wanted to mesmerise me, an’ I said, ‘All right,’ I ses, ‘do it an’ welcome–if you can, but I expect my head’s a bit too strong for you.'”

“And it was, sir, I’ll bet,” said the man who had been so candid with Bill.

“He tried everything,” said the skipper, “then he give it up; but he’s coming aboard to-night, so any of you that likes can come down the cabin and be mesmerised free.”

“Why can’t he do it on deck?” said the mate, rising from the hatches and stretching his gigantic form.

“‘Cos he must have artificial light, George,” said the skipper. “He lets me a little bit into the secret, you know, an’ he told me he likes to have the men a bit dazed-like first.”

Voices sounded from the wharf, and the night-watchman appeared piloting Captain Zingall to the schooner. The crew noticed that he came aboard quite like any other man, descending the ladder with even more care than usual. He was a small man, of much dignity, with light grey eyes which had been so strained by the exercise of his favourite hobby that they appeared to be starting from his head. He chatted agreeably about freights for some time, and then, at his brother skipper’s urgent entreaty, consented to go below and give them a taste of his awful powers.

At first he was not very successful. The men stared at the discs he put into their hands until their eyes ached, but for some time without effect. Bill was the first to yield, and to the astonishment of his friends passed into a soft magnetic slumber, from which he emerged to perform the usual idiotic tricks peculiar to mesmerised subjects.

“It’s wonderful what power you ‘ave over em,” said Captain Bradd, respectfully.

Captain Zingall smiled affably. “At the present moment,” he said, “that man is my unthinkin’ slave, an’ whatever I wish him to do he does. Would any of you like him to do anything?”

“Well, sir,” said one of the men, “‘e owes me ‘arf a crown, an’ I think it would be a ‘ighly interestin’ experiment if you could get ‘im to pay me. If anything ‘ud make me believe in mesmerism, that would.”

“An’ he owes me eighteenpence, sir,” said another seaman, eagerly.

“One at a time,” said the first speaker, sharply.

“An’ ‘e’s owed me five shillin’s since I don’t know when,” said the cook, with dishonest truthfulness.

Captain Zingall turned to his subject. “You owe that man half a crown,” he said, pointing, “that one eighteenpence, and that one five shillings. Pay them.”

In the most matter-of-fact way in the world Bill groped in his pockets, and, producing some greasy coins, payed the sums mentioned, to the intense delight of everybody.